Comments from October 2007

Breastfeeding and the housewife-feminist dominate the comments send in by our lovely readers during the month of October

, 11 November 2007

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

From Rachael Allen

Re: The F Word Podcast – episode two!: I’ve just listened to your second podcast on the Marie Claire article.

Well done – it’s brilliant!

I wanted to pick up on the discussion ‘Does feminism need

rebranding?’ It occurred to me while listening that a lot of these

ads are very much style over substance, a sort of ‘feminist-lite’.

Are they trying to make feminism palatable to what is a largely ‘me,

me, me’ society? If so, I am quite concerned, as many of the issues

feminists debate – rape, domestic violence, abortion, being treated

as a second class citizen – are not palatable. Dressing them up in

pink and adding fairy lights cannot change that. I think this fits

with a recurring theme that feminism needs to somehow be sexy and if

it was it would be the end of our troubles. Again, sorry to

disappoint those lovely ad executives, but you cannot mend a war

wound with a nuclear bomb.

Finally, you were quite disparaging with the last advert. But that

was not enough! When I clapped eyes on this my first thought was

‘What the Fuck?’ And no, the executives who designed this blatantly

didn’t know that bra-burning was a myth. Idiots.

If I’d have seen that Marie Claire had a feature on feminists I might

have been tempted to read it. A big thank you for saving me £3.

From Cazz

Re: ‘;Who… me? I’m just a housewife’: I wanted to say how much I loved Samantha Jay’s piece, as someone with a degree who has, on the one hand, never entirely felt that they fit the conventional feminist ‘type’, and who spent a number of hours at a feminist meeting in London earlier this year being made to feel inferior because I don’t have a PhD in women’s studies and don’t have any particular feelings or much interest in the trans issue, and don’t know what ecofeminism is, I can sympathise.

I left feeling very angry, feeling that feminism is not interested in issues that matter to me, including disability and mental health, and decided that I was going to write something about gender, feminism and mental health if only to show that someone gave a toss, so I’m glad Samantha had the courage to write her brilliant piece. I am 28, live at home with my parents, cannot afford to leave home because I only earn £8,000 a year as a library assistant, cannot get a full time job because I have an ongoing shoulder injury which requires an operation, have a history of reactive depression, and also assist in caring for my father, who has chronic fatigue syndrome. All of this doesn’t make me feel like the average normal, successful 28 year old I feel I am being pressured to be, so it sure as hell doesn’t make me feel like superwoman either.

By all means advocate a woman’s right to choose her own path, but be prepared to accept that many of us have limited choices that we have little or no control over.

Samantha Jay, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your lovely comment and for confirming my suspicions that I am not the only one out there in this situation! I definitely feel like there is a huge place for the kind of academic feminism that is so widespread (although not the snotty attitude you describe above), but I also strongly feel that sometimes we should remember to keep it real. For example, I get annoyed by the very language that many core feminist texts employ- they are so littered with polysyllables that it renders them inaccessible to the majority of the population. Yet the ideas contained within them are so radical that they deserve to be heard outside of the small scholarly group that read and buy them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of big words and a well constructed sentence. I also realise that it’s vital that feminism has a thriving theoretical base, I just would love to see some more feminist books on the bestsellers list, to walk down the street and see a woman waiting at the bus stop rocking a pram with one hand and holding a radical feminist manifesto in the other. Better still, for this to be a common occurrence. Ah, I can dream!

From Jacinta

But Samantha Jay isn’t a housewife, is she? I’m not saying that a

housewife can’t be a feminist, or that a feminist can’t be a

housewife. I dunno. But surely a twenty-five year-old woman in 2007

who doesn’t have any kids is unemployed, and I don’t mean it as an

insult. I don’t know. That was a great article, but I don’t think

Samantha is a housewife. I think she’s a writer and I think she’s

unemployed for mental health reasons, period. But she isn’t a

housewife. Housewives nowadays have to have kids, man, it’s not

1950. And wanting to be a housewife is (a bit) sexist, even if Samantha

is a feminist, that urge is sexist. Don’t be mad at me, Samantha, it was

a great article! But you’re not a housewife, and you shouldn’t want

to be

From Jo

Your story has really struck a chord with me as it’s pretty much

identical to that of my twin sister, who was diagnosed with bipolar

disorder and is a stay-at-home housewife. Be proud of your work

within the home, as I know how with bipolar disorder it can be

difficult to get out of bed in the morning, let alone achieve all the

things you have described. Personally I think domestic labour is not

given enough credit within feminism, I believe the movement is about

supporting women whatever their circumstances or choices in life.

Keep up the good work!

Samantha Jay, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comment, I am glad my article rang true for you. I think I can understand why feminists are weary of celebrating domestic labour; after all, it is something that has been forced on women for centuries regardless of their own personal ambitions and talents. Even in recent history many of us have stories of women in our families only a couple of generations back who had amazing potential in terms of academic or creative credentials yet were forced into a life of repressive domesticity because of the inherent sexism of the time. Also, how many of us have to suffer at the hands of male colleagues, friends or family members, the relentless ‘get back to the kitchen’ type ‘jokes’ as a way of shutting us up? These things certainly do leave a bad taste in the mouth and reflect badly on the domestic sphere. Consequently, because of this historical backdrop and low social status many feminists are maybe reluctant to endorse the domestic role. Yet, as I argued, I think this is a mistake, a monumental case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, alienating many women in the process. Instead, by helping to raise the social profile and status of domestic labour feminists may be able to help women who work in the sphere feel good about themselves and also silence the braying of unhelpful critics who devalue domestic work.

I can understand why it was essential that women broke out of the kitchen and into the world of work. I support and applaud women who do feel like they can manage a high flying career and a family. I also wholeheartedly endorse equal relationships and agree that it is outrageous that as Amity Reed argued in her great article, Maid of the Manor, men simply aren’t doing enough around the house. I might currently do the majority of the housework in our relationship, but that is because I don’t work in paid employment. If I did, I would certainly expect Owen to do his equal share of toilet cleaning! As feminists, we should be pushing the equality agenda, but we have to realise that because of circumstances people have different ways of doing this; equality does not necessarily mean two people on identical wages doing chores on a rota basis. There are other ways of finding equality and feminism should be about the spirit of fairness as well as the execution of this.

Thanks for your encouragement and support

From Jane

I was deeply touched by the article “Who I’m just a housewife”.

I can understand what Samantha means very well, as I am myself also a

person with a somewhat fragile emotional balance. Although it doesn’t

stop me from holding a job, I am fully aware how difficult it can be

if you have mental problems. As a result, you end up depending

financially on somebody else. My job, for example, is quite low-paid

because it is stress-free. I chose to stay there because I am fully

aware that I would not be able, and I wouldn not want to , work

somewhere else because good pay usually equals stress and basically

giving out so much of yourself that very little is left for you.

And I have had enough of hellish, unchildlike stress in the first 17

years of my life, time whan you are the least prepared for this.

Nobody could suspect depression or anxiety in a child, when even

adults in similar state are not always diagnosed. I recall it as time

spend in constant fear, never being able to relax, and it inhibits

you. So, basically, when I started to have a normal life, being

happily married, having a job that doesn’t kill me, having some money

to enjoy spending, I thouht: fuck it, whoever wants to spend life

building a career, doing constant cources and passing constant exams

in order to get another, but still shitty job, for me it is not worth

it. The stress and all that pain in the arse is simply not worth it, I

am not doing it again. And what for? to be paid the same amount as

your partner?

My husband earns twice as much as me. So, like Samantha, I can be

thinking: can i be considered equal? Am i hiding behind his back? It

is too tempting in our career-obsessed times to fall into trap of

evaluating yourself according to a sum on your pay slip or force

yourself into a painful rat race. Luckily I didn’t indulge in that

sort of self-flagellation for a long time. Self-preservation kicked

in ,and like Samantha, i thought: this is me, these are my requirements

for sanity, and I am not less valuable, less equal person because of

that. Nobody should apologize for not doing something that will make

their life unbearable and not worth living. And poverty means enough

strain without beating yourself up because of not measuring up to

somebody else’s standards. (I am frankly amazed at how little

interests career-orientated people sometimes have, and how, despite

being considered bright, they seem to live unaware of culture,

history, art, ideas – anything worth engaging your mind for.)

And Samantha is right: it does not contradict with feminism. True feminism

is about empowering every woman, not only those who are already given

better start: wealthy families, encouragement from early years, hell

of confidence etc. I fully agree that feminists should engage wider

circles of women (and men) if they don’t want to look like a small

private club.

Samantha Jay, author of the article, replies

Wow. What a thought provoking and detailed comment – thank you. As you say, life is too short for ‘self flagellation’. I find it interesting what you say about a low stress lifestyle allowing more brain space for cultural pursuits – I, for one, am grateful for the amount of time my domestic role gives me for improving my mind, something that is, rather unfairly, not often associated with the life of a housewife.

My husband and I have an agreement that as long as the work gets done, how I organise my time is up to me, and so consequently, especially when I’m feeling well, I have time for a lot of ‘extra’ activities. I do volunteering in the local community, attend classes at the local mental health day centre, read up to three or four novels a week, write a regular blog and articles for online zines, play the saxophone, meditate regularly and study spiritual texts, watch loads of films, read the daily paper and have written two novels.

Let me point out that I am not particularly unusual here, amongst my friends in similar situations I know many housewives who are busy using their spare hours to better their minds and contribute to their communities- let’s not forget that the backbone of charity and community work in this country is done by homemakers.

Although sometimes I do play the ‘what if?’ game when I’m feeling blue – ‘what if I was normal and didn’t have bipolar?’, ‘what if I had a full time job like my friends?’ most of the time I am content, happy, and proud of my life. I am very much engaged with the world, this idea of housewives living in an isolated bubble is simply not true in my experience.

I am always learning, always thinking and am also ambitious in my own way. My ambitions just don’t happen to involve getting that promotion, or being invited to chair a certain committee but are goals that I have set myself revolving around my own interests and heartfelt loves. It is this side of the domestic life that goes so often unacknowledged and ignored, so thank you for pointing it out. I certainly am not chained to the scrubbing brush and in some ways feel more educated now than I ever did when I was at uni and I know many who feel the same way.

From Amity (stay-at-home feminist)

Excellent article, Samantha. As a stay-at-home mum to an 18-month-old

daughter, this really hit home for me. I hate that some feminists

consider choosing to be in the domestic sphere rather than the

business world as somehow demoralising and cause to be stripped of

feminist credentials. In my case, it wasn’t really a conscious

decision but rather a financial necessity as my salary was not enough

to pay for full-time childcare, travel, lunches out and office attire.

Besides which, I actually enjoy raising my child every day and

teaching her that strong women don’t just carry briefcases – some of

them simply care for people and that doesn’t make them any less


My favourite quote from your piece is: “Maybe it’s time we

challenged the common assumption in the women’s movement that

housewives need feminism. It would be wiser if we started to see it

the other way around: that feminism needs housewives.” Absolutely

brilliant line, and so true.

Your writing is wonderful, keep up the good work!

Samantha Jay, author of the article, replies

Thank you, I am pleased you liked the article. One of the things I didn’t really touch on in the piece is children. I don’t have any, so I thought it was best that I didn’t write about what I didn’t directly have much experience of. But I know the reason that many women stay in the domestic sphere is to bring up children, either through choice or necessity or a combination of both.

I myself was raised by a ‘stay at home mum’ who gave up nearly 12 years of a successful teaching career to bring up my brothers and I. Many people, including some feminists, would call that crazy. But she created for us all a wonderful home environment where we all really flourished. I believe we owe the various successes of our adult lives to the foundations she (and my dad as well) laid for us. We were reading at a ridiculously early age, playing pianos, recorders and God knows what else at five, visiting museums, art galleries and just living the kind of happy childhood that you don’t hear about so much anymore.

Today, many adults my age look back at their infancy and remember with nostalgia their favourite telly programme, or the computer game that they had been entertained by for hours on end whilst their parents were out at work. I on the other hand count my self very lucky that when I look back to those early years I think of my mum and all the games we used to play, the baking we did, the books we read, the first tentative stories she helped me craft. I think of the time, the love and the attention that she patiently gave to me and I am just so immensely grateful.

I think she did one of the most amazing things a person can do. Anyone who criticises that kind of self sacrifice and devotion has probably not experienced it themselves. Also, my mum often argues the point that it wasn’t really self sacrifice as they were some of the best years of her life so far! Despite living for years on a combination of lentils, economy baked beans and second hand clothes, the pay off of happy times spent together as a family were well worth the poverty.

I am not for a moment saying that mums who work are selfish, or that their kids necessarily get a raw deal. I know many mothers work long hours and with or without a partners help manage to provide a stimulating, loving and happy home life for their children. I just know I personally am grateful for the choices my mother made and that’s why I get angry when people have a pop at stay at home mums or argue that their position is incompatible with feminism. It absolutely isn’t; caring for and raising children to be responsible and happy people is the foundation of our very society. It is a valid expression of a mothers strength, takes all sorts of courage, resourcefulness and that quality that is so lacking in today’s society: compassion. Your daughter is lucky to have such a mum and the feminist movement needs people like you on board if it is to really make a difference.

From Chris Turner

I found your article incredibly refreshing. My wife is a feminist and

I know that she often feels that in order to maintain her feminist

‘status’ she must be a high flying professional, the main bread

winner, or a renowned academic. I am more than happy to encourage and

support her in whatever way I can to fulfill her dreams and ambitions

(and it would be great if she earned more than I do!).

However, my

fear is that her dreams and ambitions have become focussed on how to

become an ‘impressive woman’ in the eyes of other feminists rather

than on what she actually wants. My wife works for a charity and

loves cooking but hates the fact that she earns about half of what I

do and fits some sort of ‘stereotype’ of the supported wife. I find

this extremely sad and believe that we contribute equally to our


I also find it sad that for some reason she places a higher

value on being a successful business woman, leading academic, or high

earner than on charitable work and helping the person you love. As

someone who works for a big consultancy company, the value I place on

charitable work and the work of housewives far surpasses the value I

place on my own job. I do what I do so that we can afford to live in

London not because I need to do something ‘impressive’. I do not know

whether my wife’s attitude has it’s roots in feminism (or is simply

perception distorted by the media) but if it does it goes against the

liberation of women for which I thought feminism stood.

From Amity (breastfeeding mother to an 18 month-old)

Re: When did it go so tits up?: Right on, Ruth. I totally agree. It’s a sick world that has even women

looking down at their breasts and thinking of them purely as men’s

play things, deeming it ‘gross’ to use them for their intended

purpose. I’m glad you drew attention to this hypocrisy. Well done!

From Mary Finean

I am 74 years old and have seen many different ways of rearing

children in my lifetime. Friends and relations who breastfed their

children have been rewarded with happy assured children who were

noticeably well above average intelligence. The latter effect in most

cases was in proportion to the length of time the child was allowed to

claim his/her birthright.

Mothers do not get the help they deserve to establish a proper

feeding pattern. It fits in with the modern pattern of regarding a

child as another status symbol to be shelved and taken out for

display at suitable intervals; not to intrude in any way into the

fantasy world of the parents.

So called ‘freedom’ has resulted in the abuse of womens bodies, e.g.

page 3 monstrosities. Inability to reserve time and nourishment for

their children which nature determines. Freedom to be true adults is

traded for the ‘honour’ of being pawns in the crazy world of

commerce. Later on they will be feeding them with foods reared on

growth hormones and laced with antibiotics and a variety of toxic

chemicals. Packaging laws ensure that they are kept in the dark

about what they buy. Still later they face the responsibility of

making their child obese, a drug addict, neurotic etc. It’s all her


Children need the mothers milk for nourishment of mind as well as

body. To desecrate or belittle the organs designed by nature to

underpin the physical and mental health of our race is a monstrous

evil. Why is it tolerated?

One picture I remember: a young woman, lit by the setting sun,

expertly steering a massive barge into a busy lock on a Dutch canal.

One hand on the tiller and the other cradling a child attached firmly

to her breast. She had cut out the engine and exactly gaged the speed

and weight of the huge vessel she steered gently into the space

available. A breathtaking picture of skill, natural peace and true

beauty. Many eyes were watching, some had cameras but nobody was

rude enough to break the spell or distract her complete


From Chris S

I want to express my appreciation for the column titled “When did it

go so tits up?”.

I am in full agreement with the author.

I cannot fathom how our society has found the attitude that a

fundamental step in the raising of a human life could be viewed in a

negative way.

I think it is more disgusting to have an infant suckle from a bottle

than a breast.

From Ibod Catooga

I love tittahs!

From John Rohan

I have to say I agree with Ms. Moss that it’s ridiculous to consider

breast-feeding as “obscene”. However, it’s equally ridiculous to

think that this is a recent phenomenon. If you could show me any

1930s, 40s, or 50s public posters or magazine covers featuring

breastfeeding then I might be convinced otherwise. Of course, I note

the examples of breastfeeding in classical art, but remember that

these were mostly in a religious context (a few from mythology), and

in any case, a painting doesn’t have the same sense of reality that a

photograph does. I don’t think attitudes overall were more accepting

in the past thousand years or so. I doubt that Queen Anne or Mary II

would have ever felt comfortable breastfeeding their children in


From Adam Glauser

I live in southwesten Ontario, Canada. I think public breastfeeding

is really starting to make a comeback here. Certainly many of my

friends and acquaintances will “whip them out” to feed their children

in parks, restaurants and other public places.

We are also seeing more coverage in media and even some local

ordinances that specifically allow breastfeeding in privately-owned

public places such as restaurants.

I hope it is the start of a new wave of breastfeeding acceptance!

From whatever

of course.. i’m a woman but the sense i make out of this ethically


1 art is natural to have some nudity in it however schools have to

use discresion on what they show kids in art class don’t they?

there is a place for things to be shown or not too.

2 the majorty of facebook & myspace segment is made up of kids &

young adults. boys & young males in particular don’t need pictures

to stir their imagination & lustful fantasies of women. women &

mothers in particular may see this as a rather natural picture. but

it shows private parts, a part that men lust after & really some

things need rules. it is good that facebook restricts kids & young

adults from seeing such pictures. of course they can search the

internet for them however it is ethical of facebook to put

restrictions down for such reasons


re: facebooks breastfeeding censorship; fair enough if you think women

should “whip their breasts out in public”. But I think your reasoning

is far off. I think you are a bit stuck on a very narrow perspective

here (I suppose it is a british perspective?). In Germany and Sweden

it is rather common for women to “whip them out” in order to feed

their baby. Furthermore, German women expose their breasts in public

any time they go to take a sunbath by the sea, at lakes or even

public parks. People are very accustomed to seeing boobs and do not

respond upset. You see all kind of tv series, documentaries or soap

operas in the afternoon showing nudity in a non-sexual way. Well, at

times it actually is “semi-sexual” – not showing intercourse of

course, which is forbidden in Germany at any time- but hinting at

sexual “relations”. Nudity (and sexuality) in Germany is a rather

common thing. However, in Germany the feminists are the ones who

fight for less nudity in public space. obviosly because every form of

nudity is connected to an abuse and “objectification” (whatever that

is so far nobody has been able to define it conclusively). I do not

think that boobs being defined as sexual organs is anything new. to

the contrary it has always been that way. in the 60s you would NEVER

have seen any women in Germany breastfeed in public. since the 70s,

when nudity and sexuality was becoming a “public afair” and sexual

liberation took its course, people got used to breastfeeding in

public too. Pornography and “tit-mags” paved the way for that

liberation as well. I do think you have to first come up with an

explanation why this is the case- you need to merge these two oposing

concepts. But you wont. Because when you are talking about art we must

not forget that things have been depicted there that were not a

reflection of the daily life. certainly in victorian england noone

breastfed- while you might (god knows) find nudity in art?! Women in

Europe did certainly not breastfeed their babies until the 1930s in

public places as you seem to claim. where would you find evidence for

that? if you want to attact the lads-mags: fine. but get the facts

straight and provide some evidence for your claims- please!

From mary griffiths

Well done Ruth for such a comprehensive picture as to how we have

arrived at the place we have with regard to breast feeding

today. Sarah my 20 year old daughter sent me this article and I am

delighted she has for several reasons but also sad that women are in

this situation and compromised with something so beautiful as

breastfeeding their baby.

From Sharon Trotter (breastfeeding consultant)

I work tirelessly to promote breastfeeding in a positive light, not as a zealot, but as mother who wants to empower, encourage and celebrate the wonderful feeling that results from breastfeeding your child and seeing them thrive. I support and inform new mums on the (sometimes) trials and tribulations associated with this (sometimes hard won)skill and I am rewarded with positive feedback from grateful Mums (and Dads too). Sadly negative reporting on this subject and the recent controversy regarding the use of pictures showing mothers breastfeeding their babies is just another example of how far we still have to go before breastfeeding is portrayed as the the norm rather than the exception. Maybe it is time for a change of language? Instead of extolling the virtues of breastfeeding (everyone knows what they are) maybe we should warn new parents of the possible disadvantages of formula feeding (of which there are many)?

From clare mcinerney

i have to say ‘here!here!’.i

have often commented(albeit slightly tongue-in cheek)that the likes of

page 3 and lads’ mags have come about due to a generation of men who

were deprived of breasts as infants.

seriously,though,i have formula fed my last 4 children form birth,as

my experience of breast feeding my first child was awful.why?i had

problems feeding,and being discreet was not an option,so he often

ended up having his dinner in public toilets if i dared leave the

house.this experience put me off for life.

how different it could have been,if i’d been prepared to let it all

hang out whenever and wherever,with no-one batting an eyelid.even

when i had my 5th child 7 months ago i didnt consider

breastfeeding,as i still wouldnt feel comfortable feeding in public

as i dont have the sort of gravity-defying breasts it is acceptable

to display these days.

will it ever change?with the likes of jordan promoting formula

feeding and perpetuating the myth that boobs are sexual objects i

sadly doubt it.

From Lilian

Way to go Ruth Moss! I wish there were more well articulated articles

out there such as this one. As someone who practically grew up at Art

Galleries of all sorts (My Mum is crazy for art and took us from the

time we were tiny) I appreciate not only the beautiful artwork

contained within but also the message that breastfeeding should be

seen as a normal part of life again. Thank you!

Ruth Moss, author of the article, replies

First of all thank you very much for all the positive comments; this is the first article I’ve written and I was really cheered to receive so much positive feedback.

I’d like to respond to one or two of the comments:

“I think it is more disgusting to have an infant suckle from a bottle

than a breast.”

This is a very unfair – and wrong – thing to say. There are many women out there who desire to breastfeed their babies but for whatever reason – be that medical, be it fear of breastfeeding in public, be it lack of support in the crucial early days, be it any of the other many barriers to breastfeeding there are – they stop breastfeeding before they wanted to, often in the first few weeks. They move their babies onto formula fed in a bottle. What is disgusting is that they didn’t get the support to breastfeed as long as they wanted, but I think it’s very wrong to judge their choices – or rather lack of choice. In addition, a woman does have the right to choose how she feeds her baby, and if a woman wants to bottle feed her baby then it’s not right to tell her she’s disgusting; we should actually campaign for her to be able to make that choice with independent information on which is the best formula (something the companies do not provide).

“However, it’s equally ridiculous to

think that this is a recent phenomenon. If you could show me any

1930s, 40s, or 50s public posters or magazine covers featuring

breastfeeding then I might be convinced otherwise.”

In the article I actually noted the phenomenon started in the early part of the twentieth century, if not before then, at around the same time as the marketing campaigns for infant formula. And you might well be right about Queen Anne and other royals / aristrocrats, but in all fairness you wouldn’t have seen them in public that often anyway. Everyday women would have breastfed in public as they would have had no choice as they went about their everyday lives with a baby.

“boys & young males in particular don’t need pictures

to stir their imagination & lustful fantasies of women. women &

mothers in particular may see this as a rather natural picture. but

it shows private parts, a part that men lust after & really some

things need rules”

I think this is an example of “men can’t help themselves, so it’s up to women to hide away” isn’t it? And we know how pernicious that way of thinking is.

“However, in Germany the feminists are the ones who

fight for less nudity in public space. obviosly because every form of

nudity is connected to an abuse and “objectification”

Really? The feminists are fighting for less nudity in public space because it’s subjected to abuse and “objectification”? I would have thought the feminist angle would be to fight against the abuse and objectification, rather than against the nudity. Because it’s the German / Scandinavian model when it comes to breastfeeding that I do think we ought to have here in Britain.

“if you want to attact the lads-mags: fine.”

You may want to go back and have another read. You’ll find that if anything is attacked its the infant formula marketing industry. Lads’ mags to my mind are almost more of a symptom of a society that’s forgotten what breasts’ primary function is for, rather than the cause of it.

“seriously,though,i have formula fed my last 4 children form birth,as

my experience of breast feeding my first child was awful.why?i had

problems feeding,and being discreet was not an option,so he often

ended up having his dinner in public toilets if i dared leave the

house.this experience put me off for life.

how different it could have been,if i’d been prepared to let it all

hang out whenever and wherever,with no-one batting an eyelid.even

when i had my 5th child 7 months ago i didnt consider

breastfeeding,as i still wouldnt feel comfortable feeding in public

as i dont have the sort of gravity-defying breasts it is acceptable

to display these days.”

And this is exactly the kind of comment I think the person who wrote about bottle feeding being obscene should read and try to understand.

“One picture I remember: a young woman, lit by the setting sun,

expertly steering a massive barge into a busy lock on a Dutch canal.

One hand on the tiller and the other cradling a child attached firmly

to her breast. She had cut out the engine and exactly gaged the speed

and weight of the huge vessel she steered gently into the space

available. A breathtaking picture of skill, natural peace and true

beauty. Many eyes were watching, some had cameras but nobody was

rude enough to break the spell or distract her complete


Lovely – and proof if it were needed that in a world where breastfeeding is considered normal it is perfectly possible to breastfeed and go about everyday life too.

From Nina

Re: Sexual healing?: If someone writes or visits a therapist it has to be assumed that they

are unhappy and want to change something. Sometimes women who can\’t

have penetrative sex want to and all women should be able to have sex

in all kinds of ways. Then they can make a choice about the type of

sex they want. They shouldn\’t be limited by worry, fear or

vaginismus. Despite her last sentence the criticism of a

psychoanalyst at the beginning and inherent suggestion that women

should reject penetration suggested to me that Jennifer didn\’t

support that choice.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

The aim of my article was to demonstrate how despite the fact therapists

are supposed to assist women who seek out their expert help, far too

many therapists are continuing to impose their own belief systems of

what supposedly comprises normal female sexualities on to clients.

I totally agree, many women who visit a therapist do so because they are

unhappy, but it is not the therapist’s role to subtly make a woman

conform to what society judges to be appropriate or suitable female

sexual expression. I strongly criticised Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s

methods because she did not listen to the woman but instead sought to

impose her belief system upon this respondent. Stephenson did not

validate the young woman’s sexual autonomy and sexual rights.

Stephenson Connolly in my view pathologised this young woman by telling

her if after having found the ‘right man’ she still did not want to be

penetrated, then she should seek a therapist.

Therapy is about working

with a woman or man in order to help them discover what it is that is

making them unhappy or depressed. Then the therapist and client work

together to decide what changes if any, the client wishes to make in

their lives. It is not the therapist’s task to subtly make a client

feel something is wrong with them, but rather to support and validate

the client’s pain and/or unhappiness in order that it is the client who

decides what changes if any, they wish to make in their lives. Therapists are supposedly specialists in understanding that no two

clients are the same and unless a client has committed a crime,

therapists must always work with a client not work to impose their view

on a client. Stephenson in my view acted inappropriately by not

validating and respecting the woman’s right in refusing to submit to a

male partner penetrating her body.

If you re-read the sentence in my final paragraph you will see I

adamantly support all women’s right of sexual autonomy and choice. As I

wrote, “I am advocating women’s right of sexual autonomy and the right

for all women to own their bodies and not have their diverse sexualities

defined by and for men’s pleasure.” In other words I strongly advocate

women deciding for themselves how they desire to express their

sexualities. Rather than the increasing pressure women are now facing

wherein their sexualities and desires continue to be defined by men for

men’s sexual pleasure and simultaneously claiming women who do not

adhere to phallocentric notions of female sexuality are dysfunctional or


Women’s sexual autonomy and ownership of their bodies means both

recognition and acceptance that their sexualities and desires are

diverse. As I stated in my article, I strongly respect women’s right

and desire to seek penetration, but I also respect the right of women

who do not want to be penetrated by a penis, object or fingers. I

strongly oppose any coercion or societal pressure wherein women who

actively do not want to be penetrated by a penis, object or finger(s)

are viewed as being sexually dysfunctional, abnormal, frigid or simply

prudish. This includes therapists, sexologists, medical practitioners

and also a male/female sexual partner. That is the difference.

From BrevisMus

I was very disappointed to read the article by Jennifer Drew about

Sexual Healing.

Vaginismus is not a ‘mythical medical condition’ – it is an actual

physical condition (in some cases, with more a psychological basis),

which can cause a great deal of suffering to many women with it. I am

a member of a support group for vaginismic women, and a common thread

for many women’s stories is that they have struggled for years with

various doctors trying to find out what was ‘wrong’ with them and

trying to be taken seriously (most have been told to ‘just relax’ or

to have a glass of wine before attempting penetrative sex). To read

on a feminist website that this condition is simply a ‘myth’, or that

any woman who cannot be penetrated therefore does not, deep-down,

actually want to, is very disheartening.

Drew is also incorrect in stating that vaginismus only occurs when a

penis is inserted, and also that “Although her body resists,

penetration can be successfully completed”. For many vaginismic

women, penetration of anything (including things such as tampons and

fingers) is a complete impossibility before treatment. However, on

the other hand, some vaginismic women can have penetrative sex quite

easily, but cannot use tampons or have a smear test.

I agree with Drew’s main thrust (do forgive the pun) that ‘sex’

should not equal penis-in-vagina, and this is a matter that I

campaign about myself, and that the medicalisation of ‘female sexual

dysfunction’ is a worrying trend.

However, to denigrate women with vaginismus as brainwashed idiots who

shouldn’t want to overcome their condition because that just gives

into phallocentricity is absolutely abhorrent.

For a start: it is not just penises that vaginismic women might want

to insert into their vaginas.

I have vaginismus. And I am quite aware that the pinnacle of sexual

activity is not penetration. For me the impetus to overcome my

vaginismus was the fact that I have very heavy periods, yet could not

use a menstrual cup.

Through gradual dilation (which, by the way, I enjoyed doing) I am

now at the stage where I can use a menstrual cup, and it really has

made my quality of life a lot better. The fact that I can also now

insert my partner’s penis is by-the-by and, at the risk of giving far

too much information about my sex life, not something that we bother

doing a lot of the time. For us, non-penetrative sex is a lot more

exciting and fulfilling than penetrative sex.

Yes, not all women who don’t want to insert things into their vaginas

should be encouraged to do so, but please give those of us who do –

whether it’s a moon cup, a tampon, or, yes, a great big willy – a

little respect.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Thank your for your comments. However, unfortunately you have missed

the focus of my article. Vaginismus is a myth because it has been

constructed solely from a phallocentric perspective. Women are

supposedly sexually dysfunctional if they actively refuse to ‘allow’ a

penis or other object penetrating their bodies wherein the only purpose

is sexual gratification of a male partner or same sex partner. A

woman’s right to own her body is overuled because of this phallocentric


This phallocentric reasoning presumes that only ‘real sexual activity’

occurs when a penis penetrates a woman’s vagina. Far too many women are

still being told by medical experts they should seek expert medical help

and also use dilators in order to make their bodies accept a penis or

object penetrating their bodies. Vaginismus has been primarily

constructed and defined as a woman’s inability to adhere to a

phallocentric idea of what supposedly comprises women’s main sexual

functioning, namely being penetrated by a penis or occasionally other


Of course many women are not able to physically insert tampons

internally into their bodies but this has no relation whatsoever to

female sexuality. The purpose of a tampon is not for sexual pleasure

but enables a woman to continue her daily activities comfortably.

Menstrual caps for example are not for women’s sexual pleasure but are

to assist women in overcoming problems in respect of heavy periods.

Smear tests too are not primarily for the sexual pleasure of a woman or

her partner. Therein lies the difference.

This is what I was challenging my article, not the fact some women are

not able to insert tampons internally into their bodies.

Please note I did not and do not denigrate women as ‘brainwashed idiots’

but there is a very detailed history of how women have been and continue

to be pressurised into believing they are abnormal, dysfunctional or

simply frigid if they refuse to engage in penetrative sex, whether it is

heterosexual or same sex. This does not mean women are ‘idiots’ but

the fact remains when alternative feminist views of female sexuality

which place women’s sexual autonomy and right to own their bodies are

dismissed as illogical, or simply the rantings of a frigid woman. Then

obviously one view is being accorded fact whilst the other is deemed

‘fiction.’ The question then to be asked is why is penetration believed

to be an act which all women, irrespective of their views and feelings

are expected to engage in when the sole purpose is to ensure a male

partner achieves sexual climax. Here I am referring to heterosex since

that is still perceived by many to be the only ‘real sexual activity.’

There is a large body of evidence to support the view that not all women

want, like or even wish to engage in hetero penetrative sex, but the

medical establishment, culture and popular media all promote the myth

penetration is the ‘gold standard’ for women and if a woman refuses she

is automatically labelled dysfunctional, frigid, cold or simply selfish

because she is denying a hetrosexual man’s right of penetrating a female

body. In other words, men’s sexual rights once again, supercede women’s

sexual rights.

The crux of my argument is that women are constantly exhorted to

accommodate male partners’ demands for penetrative sex at least once.

It is very clever double speak, whilst we are told women have achieved

sexual autonomy at the same time women are still expected to endure pain

and discomfort because a male partner’s sexual pleasure is primary

whereas theirs are very much secondary. I did not and do not promote an

ideology that all women should desist from engaging in penetrative

sexual activity. Rather I uphold the right of all women to not only own

their bodies but also decide for themselves, without pressure or

coercion from medical experts, culture and of course men, their right of

refusing to engage in penetrative sex and not be labelled ‘sexually

dysfunctional.’ Women who do not engage in penetrative sex are still

considered not to be ‘sexually active.’ At the same time, I strongly

support a woman’s right to engage in penetrative sexual activity, that

is her right. The difference is far too many women are not in a

position of having their sexual desires and rights respected. Instead

they are expected to acede to male demands for penetrative sex and if

they refuse, there are certain negative consequences. Men and women are

consistently taught and our culture reinforces this view, that male

penetration of a female’s body is central to male heterosexual activity

and a little force or coercion is acceptable. After all, male sexuality

is supposedly uncontrollable once aroused and always culminates with

penis in vagina or now increasingly penis in female anus.

What is forgotten is that penetration of a woman’s body by a penis is a

reproductive act not just a sexual one and also one wherein most women

do not achieve sexual climax. As to why penis in vagina/anus has become

the ‘gold standard’ is the subject of another article.

Suffice to say, one must ask oneself why is not penetration of male

heterosexual bodies not promoted, since men alone have a gland just

inside their anuses which if stimulated causes male sexual pleasure and

nearly always orgasm and ejaculation. But of course this would

radically alter how male sexuality continues to be constructed and

defined with the emphasis on male sexual autonomy and female sexual


From sian

i really enjoyed the article. being bisexual, i always have counted

sexual acts as being a sexual experience, mainly because other women

can’t penetrate you with a penis. however, this expression of sex has

often confused boyfriends, who think “we haven’t had sex yet” if it

isn’t penetrative. sexual expression is so multi faceted, and there

are so many ways for a woman’s body to experience sexual pleasure,

that to say there is one way to have “real” sex, is ridiculous. so

yes. please encourage this!

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

I wanted to write and thank you for your very insightful comments

and I am also pleased to read you enjoyed reading my article.

Yes, my intention is to challenge the dominant belief that ‘real sex’

can only be attained via a penis or other object being inserted into a

woman’s vagina otherwise ‘sex’ has not occurred. Sadly, far too many

men and women too continue to be taught this is the only real sexual

act. Of course there are other issues such as how male sexuality

continues to be defined, which is why as you say, male sexual partners

think sex has not occurred if penetration of the female body has not

taken place. But I wanted to focus on the women’s perspective and

challenge the immense pressure women continue to endure from men and

society as a whole to always submit or allow male penetration of a

woman’s body. As you so rightly point out, sexual expression is

multi-faceted and each individual woman experiences her sexuality

differently. Never a one-size fits all despite what women continue to

be told.

From Anonymous

It is good to read another Jennifer Drew’s article criticising

penetrative sex as the only valid sex. Such articles make you think,

and, hopefully, as a result, one might enhance one’s sexuality after

having stripped it off stereotypes and somebody else’s assumptions.

I don’t climax through penetrative sex and sometimes i think: ok, why

then do i have it at all? And what is sex FOR ME? Interestingly, being

completely unaware that a liberated woman might not see her sexuality

in terms outside penetrative sex, I, when complained to GP about lack

of sex desire, said that I don’t measure my libido by how much I want

sex with my partner, but by how often I want to masturbate or have

wet dreams. Indeed, it looks like this is what consitutes my

sexuality because this is what makes me come. Strange, isn’t it?

I similarly don’t buy into idea that I must leave my partner and go

searching for the sexually right man, too much hassle, no, thank you

very much (and yet this idea is quite often in books), or into idea

that having sex is expressing love. No, for me, like for many people

of whom there are many men, the point of sexual activity is orgasm.

And as you see, a man has nothing to do with it.

But I have a problem with criticisms of penetration as well. OK, what

are we to do? Not to have it? Tell the chaps to wank in the fist?

Could be the answer, but not always. It bumps into idea that sex is

something you MUST enjoy, and if you don’t then don’t have it. And

that leaves you with confusion as what to do. Excluding cases where

it is intolerable or uncomfortable, cannot there be the same attitude

as to everything you do with a partner, when sometimes you just give

in, but the next time he gives in? Is point black refusing

penetration a solution here? – that’s what i am thinking. I think it

boils down to negotiation, just like with taking a bin out or doing

washing up. Like, saying, I have a right to stop sex if I lost

interest and got bored. Do people actually say it, i wonder, or have

I uttered a profanity? I mean arousal, even in men, simple darlings

as they are, is a volatile thing, you can easily put a partner off.

Imagine him saying, look, honey, my jaws are so stiff I will not be

able to eat for 2 days, and I have been going on for 30 mins and i

have had enough – would you be sad to hear that?

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Well, despite claims to the contrary, some men do not engage in

heterosexual penetrative sex but are still able to climax or have an

enjoyable sexual experience. One of the prime concerns is how

heterosexuality has been constructed with the widespread belief a

heterosexual male needs penetration in order to gain sexual

satisfaction. However, this was not always the case. Tim Hinchliffe, an

academic historian, wrote a very interesting book on English Sexualities

1700-1800 wherein he proved penetration was not at that time considered

‘real sex’. Instead it was perceived as just one of many different

sexual acts. Mutual masturbation between a woman and man was considered

the norm, together with other mutual sexual activities, but English

society increasingly became concerned to control and police female

sexual autonomy, hence penetrative and procreative heterosex became

increasingly publicised as the ‘norm’. To me this clearly proves

sexuality is a social construction not a biological given.

If penetration was always required in order for a man to achieve sexual

release, one has to ask oneself the question why then do so many men

state they achieve far greater sexual satisfaction when they masturbate?

Research on this is contained within the Hite Reports on Male Sexuality

which contrary to some who dismiss her work as non-academic and not

rigourously researched; in fact it is. Bernie Zilbergeld another

well-known academic sexologist in his first edition of male sexuality

wrote at length about how men experience their heterosexuality and again

the focus was not always on penetration. Interestingly, when Zilbergeld

edition was reprinted this section was omitted due of course, to immense

pressure and criticism Zilbergeld received from conservative

phallocentric promoters who believed sex is not sex unless a female body

has been penetrated. Other writers too have written on this thorny

subject, including Nicola Gavey in her book Just Sex. In other words

focusing on penetration as the only real sexual act is very limiting to

both women and men. Penetration is primarily for the purpose of

reproduction and the reason a man ejaculates into a woman’s vagina is in

order that he can fertilise her egg. However, although the man achieves

sexual satisfaction, many, many women do not feel any sexual pleasure,

but often discomfort or pain, if of course the aim of such an act is for

mutual sexual satisfaction and not for reproductive purposes.

There is in fact a huge difference between negotiating whether the man

or woman takes out the rubbish or washes up because of course no bodily

contact is involved. For too long men have been given the power and

right to define for women what they supposedly want and need. Still,

women’s sexual experiences and desires are being ignored and instead

what is often termed a phallocentric approach is considered the norm.

In other words the supposed needs of a penis penetrating a vagina

supercedes the woman’s ownership of her body. Remember that when a man

masturbates he does not insert his penis into a container instead he

massages his penis until he reaches climax. No penetration is


From Zi

While I do agree with a large amount of this article, I have to say

that I found the comments of the ‘mythical’ condition of vaginismus

clashed with my own personal experiences. In the last three years I

have been in two committed relationships, and while I certainly

wasn’t ready for anything to begin with I have steadily become more

comfortable with the idea of penetration, to the point where I wished

for it to happen. I’ve never felt more ready… however, whenever I

try to insert anything – and I have tried on my own several times

with a single finger – I find it nigh on impossible to do so, and

when I do I cannot go very far and experience anything from intense

discomfort to sharp pain. My fingers are very slim yes I am

inserting at the correct angle. The descriptions of vaginismus I

have encountered match my own experiences, but the reasons for it do

not and I have no understanding of why I am experiencing it. I have

not experienced any sexual trauma, was not given the belief that

there was anything wrong with sex and there don’t appear to be any

physical problems. My partners have not demanded anything of me and

have always been respectful of my wishes to avoid penetration of any

sort until I am 100% ready, but as I already feel psychologically

ready and really do want to experience intercourse, this problem

causes frustration and also makes me feel like I have no control over

my own body, as if there is no connect between my mental and physical


This doesn’t just affect my ability to have intercourse, however.

Every month I am unable to swim, and have to wear pads which are

uncomfortable because I cannot use any internal form of menstrual

protection. I love the idea of the Keeper – I just can’t use it.

Tampons? Don’t make me laugh. I attempt to use them every month,

and have never managed to insert one because I experience exactly the

same problems as I do with my (slightly slimmer, more flexible)

fingers. Relaxing doesn’t help, because I just tense again

immediately and can’t control this response.

It’s all very well to say that vaginismus is merely a sign of a lack

of real desire to have intercourse (as indeed it may well be for

many), that it’s a medicalisation of something natural, but such

comments disregard the very real frustration, anger, inconvenience

and discomfort that I and quite likely many other women experience.

From Anonymous

Re: No porn is good porn?: My attitude to anti-porn feminism is quite ambiguous. On the one hand I agree with them having seen

how stupidly and degradingly women are represented in the mainstream

porn as just orifices (and clearly they cannot climax from all that

spunk on the face, fisted in two holes nonsense). On the other hand, I

am also angry at the idea that as a feminist, I must be anti-porn in

general. Because – and here I wink at your other writer Jennifer Drew

and her criticisms of omnipotence of penetrative sex – I simply cannot

climax during sex, penetrative or oral, but only through masturbation

and therefore porn (or images, or words, stories, etc.) is an

important part of my sexual imagination. (Nope, I don’t consider

myself a weirdo, I have coined a phrase “autosexual” and left it at

that :)

Yes, shitty porn made for male simpletons is a turn-off. But surely

there must be some porn where a woman is an active agent, like in my

dreams? I haven’t seen such porn yet, but i also didn’t look for it

because of the [widely propagated by feminists] idea that women are

mistreated in ALL porn and so it is useless to look for anything


I think feminism mustn’t take porn away from women but at the same

time there should be new porn which women can enjoy. Women are also

in need of simple straightforward tool for sexual gratification,

because, as i have discovered myself, great relationship is no

guarantee of orgasms. Simple as that.

From Sarah

I wish to register my disappointment with the article “No Porn is

Good Porn?” as it failed entirely to recognise why feminists object

to pornography. Being anti-porn is not about policing people’s

sex-lives; pornography does more to control human sexuality than

feminists ever have (or tried to or wanted to). Pornography offers a

lowest-common-denominator version of human sexuality; pornography is

to sex what a turkey-twizzler is to an actual turkey, and if you’ve

been fed turkey-twizzlers your entire life, you don’t know how to

enjoy real food. Pornography limits human sexuality, rather than

expands it: does it not occur to the author that women’s sexual

fantasies now conform to porn (it’s not the other way around)

because porn and porn imagery have saturated society to such a


The sex industry as a whole, which is a massive global

multibillion-dollar industry, is inherently exploitative, the fact

that a small number of women have advanced up the ranks from

exploited to exploiters (or managed to avoid the exploited stage

altogether – there is no indication from the article that Span has

ever been in front of the camera) does nothing to change the overall

exploitation of the system; ‘;women-friendly’ porn that is less

violent and degrading than the rest doesn’t cancel out the violence

and degradation inherent to the system.

Women working in the porn industry like to talk about themselves as

radicals, but in the end they are there to make money. Span’s

pornography is good enough for the readers of a UK men’s magazine

and suitable for airing on an adult entertainment channel in the UK

(presumably also aimed at men), how radical or different can her

images really be? They are as commercially viable as any other


Pornography is the graphic representation of women’s second-class

status in society, and as long as women are seen to exist only to be

used by men, to exist only as and for sex, there is no chance of any

true freedom or equality.

From Luisa Swindell

Re: The media has failed women’s football: I would just like to say that I have always loved playing football.

Thankfully my school in Singapore had a girls football team which I

joined and competed against other schools. However, on my return to

the UK, aged 17, I asked my sixth form teacher whether there was a

girl’s football team for me to join. To which he replied: “Girls

aren’t allowed to play football. They may get hurt.” At the time I

was too young and too shocked to reply. I never got more injured than

any of the boys did. And I certainly don’t see how getting injured

should be a reason to stop me from playing. After all, boys are

allowed to play and aren’t they at the same risk of injury? At

university, I joined the girls football team but they were more

interested in drinking than playing so I withdrew. I love playing

football and I cannot describe the frustration I feel watching

football on TV wishing I was doing the same.

Even in my previous job

there was a managers and non-managers football match which I tried to

join. Needless to say, I got laughed at and told I couldn’t play.

However, on the night, I went to watch. As one of them kicked the

ball out, I caught it on my calf and kicked the ball back in. To

which I got shouts of “Someone get her a kit! Let her play!” I

retorted by telling them they missed their chance and walked away.

Can you imagine the outrage if a man had been treated in the same

fashion? From a man’s point of view, I am only a woman and women

should not be running around a football pitch. I just wish they would

wake up and realise that us women do have talent and women’s football

would be of a much higher standard if were actually allowed the

chance to play in school and work teams.

From Lucy

In response to the failure of the media over women’s football: i

thoroughly looked through all leading newspapers sports pages to find

articles on the World Cup. For the majority there were non, the

minority had no picture and was squeezed into the bottom corner..

however, on one day we did make the back page of the times. Full page

spread :) now that’s coverage.

From Nicola Jowsey

Re: Abortion: still a feminist issue: Having read Irina’s article on pro-choice for women being able to have

the right to choose to have an abortion or not has only confirmed my

own opinions on the matter. As a young women, only just in her 20’s,

I already feel the pressure from the older parts of society to start

to have a family, ‘settle down’, and think of nothing but children.

Having recently been dianosed with suspected Endrometriosis, I was

shocked to discover the number of male doctors who said that one of

the only (possible) ways of getting rid of this affliction was to

have a child. I was furious. After researching, I found dozens of

other women, between 20 and 45, had been told by male doctors that

getting pregnant would help their situations, and that all of them

had been shocked and offended by their suggestions.

As women, we have

every right to be equal as anyone else in our society, and yet, people

still act like we’re ill when we opening express that actually, I don’t

want to have a baby, I want to have a career and make my life my own.

Why should we be ‘expected’ to have children? Our bodies are our own;

nobody else’s, and it certainly shouldn’t be dictated by society, or

anyone else for that matter, what we are allowed to do with our


Not only do I find it a gross mis-judgment in this day and age – let

alone within a western society, that America has now banned abortions

full stop, its scary to contemplate the issues that will very quickly

arise from banning abortions. Not only will back-street, illegal

clinics spring up, taking advantage of women in a vunerable position

and putting their health in serious risk, there is also the moral

issue. If a women is raped, becomes pregnant, then she would be

breaking the law by getting rid of an unwanted, rapists child. How do

you think that woman would feel? Would there be any chance she could

keep the child, and love it? No. The care system would be swamped by

thousands of unwanted children; these chioldren, who the sysem claims

that they are saving by banning abortion in the first place, would be

moved from foster home to foster home, never recieving the care and

love that they deserve.

Abortion isn’t wicked, it isn’t wrong, and it certainly isn’t immoral.

Nobody has the right to oppress their own opinions on the whole of

society, especially when that opinion represses half of the worlds

population from one of their most basic human rights: the right to


Jess McCabe , editor of The F-Word, replies

Although the right to have an abortion is under constant attack, thankfully the US has yet to ban it altogether! Thank you for your comment, though.

From Siún Carden

Hi, I’m a (Northern) Irish feminist living in Belfast. I love this

site, and I found the recent articles on the current abortion

controversy a refreshing breath of sanity. Northern Ireland is

generally left out of news coverage on abortion in the UK. This is

unfortunate, as English, Scottish and Welsh people might be less

complacent about their reproductive rights if they were aware that in

part of the UK, abortion has never been legalised. We had a debate of

our own in the Stormont assembly last week, when the Department of

Health’s draft guidelines were examined, resulting in a motion in

which the assembly opposes “the introduction of the proposed

guidelines on the termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland;

believes that the guidelines are flawed; and calls on the Minister of

Health, Social Services and Public Safety to abandon any attempt to

make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.” Not one

of our political parties is willing to point out the absurdity of

abortion being available only to those with the means and

organisational skills to get themselves, in secret, across the water.

Would a brief article on the abortion situation here be suitable for

submission to this site?

From Simon Icke

Next time you meet a poor child from a poor neighbourhood, or a

physically or mentally disabled person, or a person who has a cleft

lip or club foot, or perhaps someone from an ethnic minority where

males are more valued than females but were unfortunate to be born

female instead of a wanted male….ask them as simple question, are

you glad to be alive or do you wish your mother had excercised her

right to choose; to abort you?

Irina Lester, author of the article, replies

Arguing from probability of non-existence is a logical trick which obscures the fact that only if you have lived can you know what you would lose if you cease to exist. If you ascribe the same level of consciousness and cognitive ability to a foetus as to a human being, I’d suggest you go back to your school textbooks on human anatomy. And, using your argument technique on you I might say: next time you meet someone whose relative died in pre 1967 Abortion Act years from backstreet abortion, ask them are they glad their mother/grandmother/aunt/friend lost their life of which, unlike a foetus, they were fully aware of? Because this is what it boils down to: death of a foetus versus death of a human being, as not every woman, despite your wishes, will have motherhood forced upon her.

From Rachel Allen

Thank you to Irina Lester for her article on abortion. I just wanted

to bring it to everyone’s attention that the parliamentary science

and technology committee is currently (October 2007) debating changes

to the Abortion Act. If you agree with Irina that the legal time limit

should remain 24 weeks, that women should not need to gain consent

from two doctors and that chemical abortions before nine weeks should

be allowed in the comfort of your own home, rally your MP to use their

influence on the panel to make these changes a reality. You can find

tyour MP on

From Emily

I have an ever growing respect for Irina Lester, her article on

abortion is a triumph. I too have had an abortion at 19, I did not

regret it at the time nor do I now. Especially in hindsight, I see

what a huge mistake it would have been to have had a child, at an age

when I was barely an adult myself.

Abortion really has become the backlash point and the last bastion of

misogyny. It is the right wing and religious nut jobs favorite arena

for the control and manipulation of women and their bodily autonomy.

I feel as feminists, we are really going to have to go all out in the

battle for women’s reproductive rights in the coming years.

Lastly that you for picking up on the “pro-life” insiduous faux

concern for women who have had abortions. This preoccupation with

post abortion “depression” is just another scare tactic to put off

women seeking help. It is as bad as their repeated claim that

abortion causes subsequent miscarriages and problems conceiving, when

in fact there is not one shred of medical evidence to prove this.

Abortion (in hospital by a doctor) is always safer than childbirth.

Pro-lifers are absolutely vile.

Thank you Irina, you hit the nail on the head with this article.

Irina Lester, author of the article, replies

Thank you for such a high praise. I am glad if my article inspires women to come out and challenge the view that we are all depressed and regret abortions.

I think it is important for those women who didn’t regret it to say so, and say it loud, because otherwise abortion will remain a dirty word and many other women will suffer as a result of such attitude. The arrogance of these conservative morons enrages me because, in fact, they don’t care about women, they are just peddling their agenda at out expense. Someone needs to tell them: get lost, shove your pictures of foetuses where the sun don’t shine, we know best what to do with out lives.

In my country of birth, Russia, the favourite topic is still “do not terminate the first pregnancy as it may lead to infertility in future” and many young women have unwanted children as a result, or, what’s worse, many marriages take place because of it. People end up living the lives they don’t want to live, being together with a wring partner, becoming a parent at a wrong time in their life.

You are right, abortion in a hospital, in proper conditions, is safer than childbirth. According to the government, Maternal deaths in the UK for all women are at a rate of 53 per million maternities, compared with about five per million abortions. (from here).

So no one has a right to force us to take a potentially higher risk for our lives, not to mention the change having baby brings in a woman’s life.

From sian

Re: Crinolines and corsets… again: i would really recommend jean rhys’s early novels, about women living

in twenties and thirties Paris and London. She writes beautifully

about women living alone in the city, their sexual experiences and

although they make painful reading, are really gorgeous and

inspiring. my favourite is “voyage in the dark” which is

autobiographical. she is most famous for “wide sargasso sea” which

was made in to a completely atrocious tv show last year, but which is

a great novel as well.

Comments on blog posts

From Hannah

Re: Doing it the traditional way: I too watched

this show and sat there with increasing disgust and disbelief as all

the phrases about ‘her wearing the trousers’ and ‘him being too

feminised’ were trotted out. It was deemed not to be part of her

‘role’ as a woman that she took care of finances and constant

references were made to her husband’s ‘feminisation’ simply because

he did cooking and cleaning. I’m all for addressing problems and

imbalance in a household but surely this could have been done without

the neverending sexist comments. Personally I would be enraged if my

husband saw cooking and cleaning as purely a woman’s role and I was

annoyed that the programme relied on such stereotypes to ‘try to save

the marriage’. The way the couple were patronized made me cringe.

I have seen a couple of the other episodes in the series and have

found every one of them immensely irritating.

From anonymous

Re: Are father-daughter relationships undervalued?: it was a great

post, but this paragraph really upset me:

“The dynamic of our parents’ relationship provides a template for

our own, and it is surprising the extent to which the respect

accorded us by our father influences our future interactions with

men. As a teenager I argued with my dad, and we are still known to

have the odd disagreement, but he has always listened to everything I

have said and valued my opinions. In this way I learnt that women do

not always have to be subservient to men, and that it is a right and

not a privilege for a woman to be shown respect by her male

counterparts. This is not always the case, and if a female has been

raised in a home where her father was abusive towards her and her

mother, either physically or emotionally, then it is not surprising

that that woman may be invested with a fear of men, and regard them

as fundamentally abusive beings. But in both instances, the influence

a father has on his daughter’s development is unquestionable.”

My father was phenomenally abusive both towards me and my mother.

There is no need to go into details except to say that my first male

role model could not have been worse, and my mother’s way of dealing

with it provided a pretty appalling role model too. When I tell

people about my ghastly childhood, they react with shock. Not at the

ghastliness of my experiences, but at the idea that I could possibly

be a functional human being with self-respect and a good job, rather

than a suicidal crack whore. I have many male friends whose company I

love and who I am not scared of, and to date I have had only one

abusive boyfriend, who I left. I don’t think that this should be

treated with surprise or regarded as a major achievement.

This idea that women “marry their fathers” is fine if you happen to

come from a nice nuclear family with a loving and respectful father

figure. But if you don’t, it’s terrifying. I would, in absolute

honesty, rather die than marry someone like my father, and I refuse

to believe that to do so is my destiny. It’s insulting to women to

assume that they all “turn into their mothers” and “marry their

fathers”, as if they don’t have any identity of their own.

I know that’s not really what you meant, and that this piece is a

celebration of good father-daughter relationships, which I absolutely

applaud. I also note your wording – that a woman’s attitude towards

men MAY be damaged by childhood experiences. I just think it’s worth

pointing out how extremely unhelpful it can be for abuse victims to

read things that suggest, however well-meaningly, that they are

destined either to repeat a cycle of abuse or to go through life

terrified of men. When I was younger and less confident, reading this

sort of thing made me despair of my future.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the blog post, replies

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog post.

Secondly, many apologies if the content upset you in any way as that was

not my attention at all, and it was not written to function in that way.

There are, however, a few salient issues I would like to address. I was

very careful about the wording of that post, as I was aware that I was

unable to legitimately represent the whole spectrum of father-daughter

relationships. This was why I put more emphasis on my subjective

experience. I thought it would be unfair to explore the abuse angle in

more detail than I did because I have no experience of this myself, and I

thought that it would be patronising to those who had. On the other hand,

I thought it would be to do those women who had had these experiences a

disservice to fail to acknowledge that this happens entirely. This is why

I made reference to this, but did not explore it further.

As the article I referred to was about a positive father-daughter

relationship, this was why I chose to write the post in this vein. I did

find it interesting that Karen Glaser had chosen her father to be present

at the birth of her son, and I did wonder if the way father-daughter

relationships are viewed was changing. I don’t think I suggested that we

are all destined to “marry our fathers” or “turn into our mothers” as I do

not think that is the case at all. In my blog post, I said that although

our mothers provide us with the first example of womanhood, we may or may

not wish to emulate her behaviour. I am very close to my mother, but apart

from a shared sense-of-humour we are very different in many ways, and our

life choices when compared to when she was my age have been very

different. Sometimes you can be influenced by someone to such an extent

that you wish to do the exact opposite, and this is the idea I was drawing

on here and throughout the blog. Similarly with the father aspect. I have

a great relationship with my father, but I don’t assess potentially partners

on their similarity to him, nor do I actively pursue men who are like him.

Women do have an identity of their own, and that is exactly what I was

suggesting, but it is just natural that an individual’s thoughts and

opinions (both those of men and women) are influenced by their

intereactions with those around them. That doesn’t diminish a woman’s

identity, and in many instances I think it allows us to develop the

critical acumen and confidence (in the long-run) to know exactly what we

do want. I hope that this helps to clarify the meaning of my post, as it

would not be my intention to undermine anyone’s experiences or cause


From Maria Dixon

Re: All 12 year-old girls to get cervical cancer jab: Love the website, but I just wanted to point out that your statement

in the blog post about cervical cancer jabs (“future generations will

be free of cervical cancer”) is sadly untrue.

Being able to truly inoculate against cancer is unfortunately a very

long way off. The vaccine you discuss currently only protects against

a few of the most dangerous strains of the HPV virus, and the HPV

virus is not the only cause of cervical cancer (although it is the

cause in the majority of cases). In addition, the vaccine may well

only be effective for a relatively short period of time in some


It’s great that this vaccine is being offered to teenagers (and great

that the idiotic moral tub-thumpers aren’t preventing it), but this

will not reduce the necessity to have regular smears or mean that

cervical cancer will be eradicated as result.

From Clare

Re: The abortion debate hits the cinema: In response to the blog post today about the abortion film Lake of

Fire, I feel that I have to differ with Samara Ginsberg’s

interpretation of being pro-choice. Once you start to make moral

judgments about abortion (and therefore inescapably about the women

who have abortions) it is a slippery slope towards disallowing

certain women from accessing abortions, or making laws which only

allow abortions in certain “morally acceptable” circumstances. It is

a very easy trap to fall into, to believe that ‘the only moral

abortion is my own’, and this area of weakness within the pro-choice

movement is used by the anti-choice movement very effectively. To be

able to point out that even some pro-choicers dislike abortion, and

have ethical problems with it, greatly strengthens their case that

abortion is disgusting, murderous etc etc.

Like most medical procedures, abortion is not a pretty spectacle. I

am not arguing that, but as Irina Lester so brilliantly puts it, “the

fact that a fully-formed adult can be pitted against a foetus

demonstrates how little value and respect this society has for a

woman”, this is what is disgusting, immoral and reprehensible within

our society, and as pro-choicers, it is this which we must focus on,

rather than being swayed by anti-choice propaganda depicting the

unattractive results of the procedure itself.

From Elizabeth

Re: Don’t believe the hype: Samara criticises Deborah Cameron for failing to debunk the notion

that women have no spatial awareness, but Cameron is a linguist

studying the way we use language. There are probably thousands of

other non-linguistic stereotypes she’s failed to debunk – shall we

criticise her for all of them?

From Michele Appleton

Re: Teachers advised on enforcing the gender divide through reading assignments!: Lists are always contentious and I appreciate all your reservations

about this one, but like all our other resources it’s meant first

and foremost for teachers and as such is a reference / starting

point, designed to be used flexibly. Teachers can and will adapt it

to suit their own students, adding their own recommendations and

quite possibly taking out the gender divide too.

I know that this isn’t a perfect answer, but to arrive at a perfect

list for all year 10 students would be nigh on impossible and would

involve a great deal of ongoing updating and tinkering. Our

criterion for publication is really whether teachers will find the

resource useful and be saved creating something altogether from

scratch. I think the answer here is definitely still yes. Our

members have the ability to edit resources themselves (through access

to the MS Office files) and I think a resource like this one

demonstrates just how valuable that is.

From Kimberley

Re: Math is hard!: Samara Ginsberg is right in saying that no woman has ever won the

Fields Medal. Particularly interesting is that the Fields can only be

awarded to those 40 and under (the Nobel merely requires you to be

alive). You’d think that this rule would help women but it hasn’t so


From Helen

How interesting to read Samara Ginsberg’s article Math is Hard! Like

Samara I also did Maths and Science A levels, but as I went to a

girls school I was shielded from the view that these were male

subjects. All the girls in my year did extremely well in their A

levels. I then went on to University and started off studying double

Maths and Physics (though I later changed just to Physics as double

honours is too much like hard work).

As this was 25 years ago the

male students were much less pornified than they are today, and there

was never any suggestion that I or any of the other female students

were lesbians. However, the arrogance, bragging and patronising

attitudes were all there, so much so that I spent the whole of my

first year feeling that I was the thickest person on the course.


cocky and competitive male students in my tutor group especially made

me feel small, and every week I emerged from my tutorial feeling

totally crushed. However, not being the giving up type I persevered

and amazingly, at the end of first year exams achieved A grades in

all three of my main subjects of Pure Maths, Applied Maths and


The men in my tutor group who had appeared so brilliant and

who had made me feel so small all did worse than me. This was a

revelation for my tutor, for me, and for my tutor group, who were

truly flabbergasted. This experience taught me, like nothing else

ever could have done, that men can be supreme bullshitters, and I

have never again allowed myself to be daunted by male swagger and

self confidence.

I do not think that women are intrinsically any less

able than men at maths or science, but I can well believe that many

are intimidated out of these subjects, or simply do not want to run

the gauntlet of competing with men. I came out of University in the

end with first class honours, and have subsequently had an enjoyable

and successful career in engineering, which I have managed to combine

relatively easily with marriage and motherhood. To other women

considering a career in maths or science, I say go for it. Yes you

will encounter negative and patronising attitudes from some men, but

you just ignore them, because you are just as good as they are!

From Helen

Re: More male geniuses?: Jess McCabe’s article “More male geniuses” really did make me cross

with The Daily Mail. I too used to wonder why women do not seem to

have achieved so much as men, and whilst this certainly has a lot to

do with educational opportunities, the answer was truly answered for

me when I had a baby. Even these days, with disposable nappies and

tumble driers, looking after a baby is extraordinarily time consuming

and labour intensive. Remember that women have had control over their

fertility for only a few decades and large families used to be common

(my dad was one of four children, my mother-in-law one of eight).

Combine this with no labour saving devices, constant child illness

(no vaccinations then remember), no off the shelf clothing (women had

to make all the clothing for their (large) families), no convenience

meals from Marks and Spencers, no fridges (so shopping had to be done

every day), no cars (so women had to walk to market and carry

everything back) etc etc etc etc. It is clear why women have not

written so many novels or made so many inventions – THEY HAD NO


From Sarah

Re: Just another way to alter our bodies: Excellent point – why aren’t med more proactive with controlling

fertility, especially as we are so often told in a patriarchal

society that men want their “freedom” (to have sex without the

consequences, ie. pregnancy) to shag without having to worry about

the morning after.

From Amanda

I a little intrigued as to what the author of “Just another way to

alter our bodies” was on when she wrote it, because it contains all

kinds of crazy.

How can scientists developing a contraceptive for women that has less

side effects possibly be a bad thing!? I like to have control of my

reproductive system and if they can invent a way that I can do that

without me having to worry about mood swings, or the possibility of

blood clots then I am all for it. In my world it is indeed true that

as long as pregnancy is kept from occuring then all is well. Or are

you of the opinion that every single woman is actually desparate for

a baby and the only thing stopping us is those selfish menfolk

stopping us from the beautiful act of ovulation? I for one enjoy a

good old fashioned fuck with no consequences and I don’t have a

penis, so what does that say about your argument? I also prefer the

feeling of sex without a condom (in my monogamous and tested

relationship) and I don’t consider popping a pill each day as

“extreme lengths”.

“Denying us our bodily functions”? Seriously, the more I read this

the more I get confused. Ovulation is one bodily function I quite

happily deny myself as I DON’T WANT TO GET PREGNANT. How is that men

medicalising my body? If anything it is me taking control of it. I

don’t have to take the pill. I choose to.

As for the male pill, I for one would not trust that as my only form

of contraception. That would be leaving my uterus in the control of

another person and I am not comfortable with that. My body My choice

also means My body My responsibility whether that means making sure

my partner was wearing a condom or taking a pill once a day.

As for the final sentence, shame on you. That is a leap of logic

worthy of the pro-life fundies. Last time I checked science was not

the enemy so don’t treat it thus.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the article, replies

Many thanks for your comments on my blog post. Firstly, I’d like to address the last point you made, which was that my final sentence was a “leap of logic worthy of the pro-life fundies.” I have chosen to start with this as I must confess to having found that remark very offensive. I re-read that last sentence (the entire blog in fact) and I still fail to see how you can substantiate your argument. The point I was making was that we are expected to be ‘women’ and to display feminine attritubutes in a stereotypical sense, but with regards to the actual internal physiology that actually distinguishes our gender we are consistently subject to repression, and placed in a position where we are supposed to alter and change our bodies to conform to a male ideal. To a lesser extent think about the topic of menstruation. It’s not a subject that I would speak about at length, but is it even socially acceptable to speak about this in the company of men? It’s not in my experience. It would be considered quite coarse and inappropriate to do so, even though it’s just a natural part of our bodies. It is something which, to a certain extent, is considered to be slightly embarassing even though half the population does it. We can be women, we can look pretty, as long as we don’t openly show ourselves as being “slaves to our bodily functions,” so to speak.

I am not of the opinion that every single woman is desperate for a baby – far from it. I did not suggest this in my post either. Like yourself, I am not someone who wants to have children in the near future, if ever at all. But what I do object to is that the onus of birth control does predominantly fall on women – leaving men free to go and squirt their seed like water sprinklers happy in the knowledge that “it’s being taken care of.” Of course, being in a monogamous relationship, as you say you are, is very different, and so you should take the precautions that best accommodate your needs, but you need to appreciate that your way is not the only way. Ovulation is something that happens to women – it just is. It’s not painful, and the majority of us wouldn’t even know when it is actually happening, so I think that it’s hugely intrusive to actually have to take a pill that will alter the genetic make-up of a woman’s eggs when she is able to bible along quite happily whether she is ovulating or not. That was the “extreme length” to which I referred.

Many women object to having to chemically alter their body when there are other methods of contraception available that would mean they would not have to do so. I recognise the merits of the oral contraceptive, as I mentioned in my blog post, and I also recognise that it’s introduction did mark a movement towards liberation for women when it was first introduced (again as I said in my blog post). You say that you choose to take the pill, as you want to take responsibility for your uterus, which is a perfectly valid point, and I can understand what you are saying. But do you think that if men had always been expected to play a role in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, then you would feel the same way? Do you think perhaps to a certain extent the emphasis that has always been placed on women taking responsibility has conditioned you to believe that this is what you *should* be doing? Yes, you choose to take the pill, but if men had been taking the oral contraceptive for the last 60 or so years, would women still be opting to take it, or would *we* be adopting the attitude that “it’s ok, it’s being sorted?” I suppose it’s difficult to speculate, but it’s something that we should think about.

Hope this addressed the issues that you raised with your message, and many thanks again for your comments.

From Alex

It was really refreshing to read Abby’s views on the pill – I’ve never

been on the pill because I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of

voluntarily sterilising myself. Being fertile is not a sickness, so

I’ve never had any desire to take a pill for it. I’ve never quite

trusted the pill (or its side-effects, or the idea of all those

hormones entering the water system) and this has always sat

uncomfortably alongside my identity as a feminist. At least, until I

read ‘The Whole Woman’ by Germaine Greer. She sees the pill as

external (possibly patriarchal) control over women’s bodies – insofar

as a woman who takes the pill has no real idea what is in it, she just

trusts the scientists who put it together. Well, no-one controls my

body but me. If it ain’t broke, I won’t ‘fix’ it with hormones and if

my partner wants sex, it’s a condom or no sex at all. Simple as that.

This has always been our arrangement, and since I’ve never known any

different, using a condom has never felt like an interruption of the

moment or an inconvenience. If we don’t have any, there are other

enjoyable things you can do. I know that for some people, sexual

pleasure and penetration are paramount, but for me they are secondary

to my body’s natural, unpredictable, unregulated, fertile state.

Sorry to ramble on, but I just wanted to say that Yes! It is possible

to be a feminist and not worship at the altar of the contraceptive

pill. Condoms are best – and ain’t no pill ever gonna protect you

from disease, either.

From Dawn Taylor

Re: How A Baby Is Made: There is a very

similar book available in the UK. It is called “Mummy Laid an Egg” by

Babette Cole, and it’s great! The parents of two small children try to

fob them off with some nonsense about laying eggs under leaves, but

the children are not fooled. They give the parents chapter and verse

on what happens and exactly how it happens in clear, accessible


It would be nice to think that all parents could speak to their

children about sex without embarassment, but for those who just can’t

face it, this book is a good starting point for a conversation.

Comments on earlier features and reviews

From Chris Turner

Re: Get mad: I actually agree with a much of your rant however, If you are going to

make accusations about inaccurate figures on another website

(incidently I have never seen that website and it doesn’t sound like

something I would want to read), I suggest that you get your own

stats right (50 million divided by 300 is approximately £166,666 not

£1666,000). It might help you in your future law career. It may also

be worth sticking to factual evidence to back up your points rather

than making claims which simply cannot be supported (“Women have more

military intelligence than men”). I thought that a strong intellectual

arguement got lost in the middle of an emotional rant. Sorry

From D

Re: ‘;Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’: You say that it is inherently more damaging to women who may hear

this than it is for young men to be told their penis is small. What

you fail to take into account is how uncommon this “loose vagina”

stuff is compared to small penis stuff.

Also, you fail to take into

account the fact that if a girl asks someone more knowledgeable then

she will be set straight. A friend of mine committed suicide in high

school because he had a small penis. An ex of his went around telling

everyone how small his penis was and it became known she was telling

the truth. Even adults made constant fun of him. His doctor told him

that small penises cannot satisfy the majority of women.

Most girls

would not only spurn his advances, but laugh at him. At first he got

embarrassed but was fine, but as it continued he became depressed, he

dropped out of sports and expressed feelings of inadequacy. Which he

was made fun of for. (even by me) He went from normal and happy to

dead in two years, because EVERYONE finds it acceptable and humorous

to denigrate the part of a man which is most important for status in

today’s highly feminized world. The idea of a loose vagina being a

problem is a joke and is treated as such, even on popular TV shows

such as Curb your Enthusiasm. Only the most easily influenced will

have a problem, and even then there is a good chance she will realize

that the idea is idiocy before harming herself.

Samara Ginsberg, author of the article, replies

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend – that’s really tragic.

I should have been more specific in the article: what I actually meant was that this sort of thing is more inherently damaging for women than for men only when the person’s genitals are normal/average, as they are in the vast majority of cases. I don’t doubt that any man who actually does have a small penis goes through hell, as your example demonstrates.

Your example also demonstrates a distasteful feature of the Cosmo generation – namely that it is considered acceptable to talk about men’s penises in this way. I can think of few things bitchier and more disrespectful than sleeping with someone and then going around giggling about it and waggling my little finger at all and sundry, but to a lot of people this is acceptable behaviour, all part of the “battle of the sexes”.

From stuart gould

As a mere Male i found this article by accident . May i be allowed to

say that I found it very, very funny and I thought that the author

has an extremely terrific way with words. Thank you.

From Sarah

Re: A bride by any other name: I kept my own name when I married my husband last year, and he has

kept his own too. This may have only been frowned upon secretly, had

we not been pregnant at the time. Our son has a double surname, mine,

followed by my husband’s. His family were shocked, as were his male

friends. My family were happy – I only have a sister. Other people

thought that it would be confusing for our son, not sure how! I

think names should be a personal choice. I have no problem with

women taking their husband’s name, as long as they are not just doing

it because that’s what society & tradition dictate.

From nikky

Re: Rape – is it our fault?: I’m pleased to see something that realises that rape is to do with

those who do it, not those who suffer it…but I feel the article

loses impact by simply exerting women to be a good feminist and stand

up for themselves without suggestion or reference to how do that…or

how damned hard that is in the face of rape.

I was raped twice by two different men in the space of 8 months. I

reported both assaults to the specialist Sapphire Unit…one attack

was ‘no-crimed’ within 4 days of report and I was handed a typed

statement withdrawing my allegation and told to sign it for my

sake…which i did since I’d been made homeless by being attacked in

my own home and needed to be concentrating on that.

The second assault (a drug rape) was handled appallingly but with

sugar coated assurances that they believed me…eventually I was

forced to complain to the IPCC and Met themselves who decided the

investigation was ‘almost worthless’…both officers involved were

given a written warning, but on left the Met and joined another force

thus escaping his punishment…

The Met did implement changes in procedure in light of my case and I

met with them on 8 occasions to work with them on this…and as a

result the number of cases referred to the CPS in this unit have


It might be being a good feminist and standing up for women…but I

got no help or support from anyone other than friends or family…and

doing it ultimately for myself, but knowing it would help others was

the hardest thing I have ever done. It has pro-longed the impact of

my rape on my life and has damaged me hugely.

Sometimes women need to be told that its their rape and its their

choice how to handle it, instead of the whole for the good of

womenkind stuff that gets trotted out…don’t forget to remind women

that its OK to be selfish and concentrate on self-preservation!

Dwysan Edwards, author of the article, replies

I really appreciate your reply to my article. It wasn’t intended to tell

women to be a ‘good feminist’, it was a personal viewpoint on an image which

in my view is continually reinforced in society – that women should keep

themselves safe and that all men are perpetrators.

I can only imagine how frustrating and lonely it must have been to deal with

your experiences and in my line of work unfortunately I have supported many

women in the same situation. Also from my own experiences I do understand

the effects of living with abuse. Thankfully there are some measures now

being put in place and even in North Wales we are hoping to have a SARC

(Sexual Assault Referral Centre) open in 2008. Obviously there is a long

way to go.

From Kitty

Re: Sin City: Wow, did you really even pay attention to the story? For one, everyone

in the film was less than noble, exaggerated, usually in negative

ways. These weren’t subtle, realistic characters, they were broad

brush characiatures, archetypes. For another, you seem to have missed

every instance where the women in the film were powerful or kicked

ass. Miho wasn’t the only one, not by a long shot.

For example, Gail’s group utterly annihilated their enemies in a hail

of gunfire, in an engagement where Dwight was the bait for the trap.

For another, Dwight was almost killed in his encounter with the Irish

merceneries, to the point he was actually sinking into the tar pit

moments from death before Miho rescued him. He had FAILED, and he

required their assistance to succeed.

Also, you’re right that Miho wasn’t a “normal female”, but it wasn’t

for sexist reasons but because that was what her character was

intended to be. Neither she nor Kevin were human, both were

supernatural entities, and that’s why neither of them spoke. Kevin

was the dark side of the pair, Miho the light, and note that of the

two of them she won all her fights and survived the film, while Kevin

ended up a dog-eaten corpse.

Dwight’s “abused girlfriend” chose to endure her asshole ex’s shit

not because she was weak, but to protect Dwight. She knew that he was

a cop and thus was untouchable, and she didn’t want Dwight to get the

law down on him. She was being strong for his sake, he didn’t listen

to her, and all his problems came because he failed to heed her. Some

sexist message, that.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

I won’t lie, Frank Miller has done some real sexist tripe in his day.

The man has some issues, to put it mildly.

But this film isn’t what you described. And there’s too much real

misogyny in the world both real and fictional to waste energy railing

at phantom foes.


Re: Munich: WOW WHAT TRIP!

that´s the problem of some people in this

social/reinvendications/politically correct movements. If someone

makes a movie or song… you will see something negative about it

that is depreciatory!

From Samantha McIntyre

Re: Sex and the music video: Thank goodness I found this article! It sums up exactly how I have

been feeling. I feel like I’ve been going mad-seeing semi naked

woman groining on each other at lunchtime! I think it will have a

very harmful effect on both young girls and boys!

From Irina

Re: Can burlesque be feminist?: I don’t want to be nasty towards the author, but the only response to

Chloe Emmot’s “Can burlesque be feminist?” i can think of, is:


I think it is nothing else but getting the stale old idea of

objectification of a woman through back door. it is basically an

attempt to sell the old stereotype.

I mean, look at the mother of the movement, Dita von Teese, the

ridiculousness of her cinched in waspy waist, the pain of hellishly

high heels, and her silly remarks in the press that women should not

attract others attention to their flaws (like, we do care and give 2


Chloe might have enjoyed her burlesque class but that fact alone

doesn’t make burlesque itself a positive pro-women thing. You need to

see where it came from in order to establish its relation to women

liberation. Isn’t it something made to initially titilate old codgers

in the 50-s?

Yes, learning to love your body is a great thing, but I still think

doing it through burlesque is a very unusual side-effect rather than

intended thing.

From the similar logic, I love cats, so can cats be feminist? But on

a more humble note, just to illustrate that I am not so

self-righteous supa-feminist-hard as nails-and better than all ya: I

like my body, which is a positive thing, yes, but I am afraid that

the fact that I am not overweight plays a big part. So, my criticisms

aside, I am also vulnerable to [self]objectification.

From Nic

Re: Hairy Women: I read Lindsays’s commentary on the program “Hairy Women.”

Unfortunately, such opinions are uncommon, even more so in my realm

near Hollywood and Beverly hills (southern California).

I agree with Linday’s comments and analysis of the meaning and

reasons for the various attitudes. But the meaning goes even deeper.

People who focus on such a shallow standard, and further underscore

it by their obliviousness to the naturalness of not shaving, are

usually shallow in other ways too. Most “proper women” (same applies

to men, but the program focused on women) are unaware of the current

slave trade (1000000+ mostly women and children sold yearly),

problems with the environment and endangered species, the cruelty to

animals resulting from the food industry and cosmetics development,

etc., etc., …..

Although it makes me sad, this aspect of superficial thought and

behaviour is not surprising. We are moving more and more toward

mindless acceptance of standards created by the marketers (Vogue,

Cosmopolitan,…) and toward immediate gratification rather than the

more meaningful (and difficult).

Even among educated and liberal women, I meet VERY few with the

courage and character to reject the new shallow standards. And with

contempt similar to that shown toward women who do not shave, I am

looked upon oddly/angrily when I try to state this philosophical


I’m inclined to think Lindsay did not mean to limit men who like

body hair to “punk rock, hippies or even fetishes.” I’m neither and

I don’t even think of it as a fetish. I simply think it’s natural

and I find it attractive.

Thank you for publishing the article and website!

From Tracey Heynes

Re: The food of love?: I was looking forward to an interesting article on why not to let a

man pay for your meal – and was disappointed to find,what appeared to

me-as an old-fashoined,academic type analysis that most ordinary women

would never find convincing.

I can see where the writer is coming from, but what she says is the

kind of stuff that,if I offered it as an argument amongst work

colleagues (male) it would get me laughed out of the room.I don’t think

that kind of argument is appropriate today.

I think it would be far more useful to focus on the other subtext of

the man-paying-for -woman scenario ,ie:

1.There is some kind of bargain going on-what does the woman give in


2.It is saying something about a man being seen as a more powerful

figure in our society than the delicate little woman – so paying for

the food is kind of paternalistic.

I’m not clever enough to write the article I’d like to have

seen,sadly.But the one you printed was a real disappointment.

From helen h

Re: The F Word podcast: episode one!: listen to part 2 – love your debate on hair and bras!!! don’t shave,

and tell people. have 50 year old saggy boobs and refuse to waer

scaffolding in order to make others feel ok!!!! Go for it all of you

– live your beliefs and tell people WHY YOU DO!!!! use it as a

jumping point for discussing oppression. BE BRAVE – am writing as i

listen!!!!!!! My body gets me around and i hope it does not serve to

define me for men mostly as a sex object from inute to minute. The

only person i need that from is my love interest of the moment!!!!!

et people think you are lazy. dirty or wottever – don’t care – do you

know them????? DON’T BE BOVVERED!!!! Kids of 11 are copying us – well

not me – YOU!!!

From nadja bruskin

Re: Feminism and popular culture: nice job! i live in america and it was interesting to see how sexism

is affected in the u.k. i wish you explained the fathers 4 justice

alittel more…dont know who they are…the worst sexist (and as well

tracist) thing i see in america are the gansta rap videos. those thigs

just make you want to die, they are so sick and w ho would be

attracted to those really fake looking women anyway? The thigns about

the t.v. ad was shocking. In america advertisers do the same thign but

put it in a way that makes women think its the right thing….anyway

thanks for the insparation. keep on writing!!

From C.H.

Re: deconstructing masculinity: Sheryl Plant wrote: “True

strength comes from perseverance, rationality, an ability to deal

with a situation in a calm and fair manner.”

Beautiful, eloquent, and concise. And so true! In fact i would say

those qualites define (hu)manhood in its developed state. Aggression

is indeed a form of weakness–as a male who has striven for years to

recognize and break free of the culturally-imposed paradigm that

equates “maleness” with aggression, and who is still, unfortunately,

all too often aggressive in his behavior (on a subtle level these

days, thankfully), I can relate to that idea deeply. Agression has,

in my life, been the single most destructive force I know of. When I

am successful in seeing things clearly, dispassionately, with a

softer, more considerate, and dare I say it?–female mood, I have

found life to go much more smoothly. I agree completely with the idea

that it is not women who need to become aggressive like emotionally

undeveloped men tend to be, rather that men need to become more

emotionally aware, and adept at dealing with their emotional–and

thus human–natures. In that lies real strength. Thanks for the


From marilyn

Re: The farmer wants a wife, the wife wants a wife: Thank you, thank you, JC Sutcliffe, regarding The Farmer Wants a Wife!

I so hate when my partner says I’m lucky he does so much. It’s always

pissed me off. Glad to hear my sentiments echoed.

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